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In The Beginning, There Were Video Game Magazines 85

simoniker writes "The early history of video game mags doesn't get explored much, but over at GameSetWatch, there's a new column that looks at the dawn of game magazines, from Computer & Video Games' 1981 UK launch to Electronic Games' same-year U.S. launch. The column's writer, Kevin Gifford, who also runs the Magweasel website dedicated to documenting old video games, also claims of the early days: 'Terms like easter egg, scrolling, and screenshot were originally coined by [Electronic Games editor and co-founder Bill] Kunkel.'"
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In The Beginning, There Were Video Game Magazines

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 10, 2006 @11:49PM (#15306068)
    Did anyone else subscribe to Nintendo Power to get a Dragon Warrior game cartridge?

    I sure did.
    • I did it not only for that, but the awesome Zelda comics they had in it.
    • my eight year old self could barely contain the joy of the free players' guides for renewing, and a free game?!!!???
      (It started a crazy trend towards rpgs for me haha).
      I don't think Id've beaten super mario brothers 3 without those red guide books!
    • I missed that Dragon Warrior offer...too bad, that was my favorite.

      I wonder how game magazines are going to cope with the Wii and PS3's motion sensitive controller. They strive on game reviews, previews and cheats.

      Imagine Nintendo Power describing how to pass a particularly difficult level in the new Metroid "First, roll yourself into a ball, spring up after three seconds and initiate three quick left-to-right slashes with your controller." Instead of simply saying A-B-A-A-L-R-U, will we have icons represen
    • No, but Gamepro had the same offer for Dragon Warrior II. I did go for that one.
  • Around 1992 or so. My favorite was Computer Game Review.
    I loved the reviews. Each reviewer (with different videogame tastes) would give his own opinion about certain videogame, and they would all give a certain opinion and I just loved the screenshots of all the games. There were dozens, hundreds of new games I'd like to try out.

    Unfortunately, this golden era of videogames came to an end with consoles. Not only you had to pay suborbital prices for the consoles, the games were much more expensive. And my fascination for videogames was gone.
    • I never bought a console, much of the indie gaming spirit is still very much alive on the internet. Consoles are for people who have enough free time for entertainment, not for engineering students who want to get out in 3-4 years.
    • by spyrochaete ( 707033 ) on Thursday May 11, 2006 @09:03AM (#15307364) Homepage Journal
      Was that the magazine where 3 revieweres would score each game? I loved that scheme! I remember they reviewed a flight sim that specialized in realtime commercial jet flight. 2 of the reviewers found it boring as hell and gave it around 50%, but one reviewer "got it" and gave it about 97%. All 3 viewpoints were perfectly valid and rounded out the review that much more.
    • I'm cornfused. You said your fascination with video games ended with consoles, yet consoles had been around for many years by 1992. Let's say for argument's sake that the "somewhat modern" era of consoles began with the NES. It was launched in the US in 1985 -- a full 7 years before a time that you were in love with video games. Games for the NES were expensive (adjusted for inflation, they're pretty comparable to many of today's titles), and the console was around $200 for quite a while after its launch. B
    • Unfortunately, this golden era of videogames came to an end with consoles.

      When did this golden era end? You imply that this era was happening in 1992, and that it ended sometime later than that. But consoles had already been around for years by 1992. Do you mean that the golden era ended with a later round of console games? If so, what console round caused the end of the golden era? I mean, the Atari 2600 came out in 1977. The NES came out in 1985. The Super Nintendo came out in 1991.

      Also, what type of game

  • C64 Game Code FTW!! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by RogueOne ( 582281 )
    I remember buying some magazines that had print outs of the source code for C64 games.

    Heh, I remember correcting the listing in pencil too then passing them on to my mates. :>
    • "I remember buying some magazines that had print outs of the source code for C64 games."

      Heh. I remember buying up a bunch of those, writing about 20 lines of code, then deciding that game I had beaten 20 times before was awfully tempting to beat again.
    • I remember buying some magazines that had print outs of the source code for C64 games.

      I had a subscription to COMPUTE! [wikipedia.org] magazine, which did exactly that, only for multiple platforms. It was a wonderful resource for computer hobbyists.

      Schwab

    • by gowen ( 141411 )
      I remember entering BASIC code from a magazine onto C64, Vic20, Dragon32 and my ZX Spectrum. Man that was a lot of hard work for some fairly lousy games. Learnt a lot about programming though.

      I liked Crash! magazine in particularly, and not only for its occasionally pervy cover art.
    • But did other countries also have shows on the radio that aired computer programs? All you had to do is record it on tape for the C64 (if I remember right) and you had yourselve some new programs to mess with. (This was in holland and on public radio)

      Offcourse it sucked for everyone else because of the horrible noise :P

    • There was a mag called "Home Computer Magazine" that had listings for TI 99/4A, C64 (I think), and IBM PCjr. And maybe Apple II, I can't remember. It started out as "99'er", a mag that focused only on the TI. One issue had a theme of computer music/MIDI/Etc and came with a flexi-disc record that had some goofy synth music on it.
    • I remember buying some magazines that had print outs of the source code for C64 games.

      The Apple II had a similar magazine named Nibble [nibblemagazine.com]. It wasn't just games - it also had utilities, business software, programming tips, and much more. I still have many of them - I'm not going to throw source code away.
    • Man, I remember those days. We used to get C64 Magazine and I would type in the code to play a game. But I never knew how to save it so everytime I wanted to play the game, I would type it in all over again. Silly but I was 6 at the time... I didn't know any better.
  • by PyroMosh ( 287149 ) on Thursday May 11, 2006 @12:32AM (#15306198) Homepage
    Actually, in the beginning there was the Nintendo Fun Club.

    Well, before Nintendo Power at least. Maybe not *THE* begining.
  • Zzap! (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Was my favourite mag of the time. It introduced me to the Brit terms "nuff said", "well hard" and "git", which I thought were hilarious at the time.
  • I still have fond memories of mean machines sega.

    All mags seemed to eventually suffer from the problem of their writers getting too big for their boots though. Once it became about them and not the games anymore it was time to move on.
  • I found all but 3 issues in a dusty old used bookstore.

    The mag was around 1982-1983 before the video game crash. They are a delight to read. Very in-depth reporting of home console games, hardware, and even arcade games. Computer games were lightly covered.

    The best mag I ever collected.

    The article only seems to cover a fraction of the video game mags that were out there.
  • Zzap!64 (Score:2, Informative)

    by Sathias ( 884801 )
    Zzap!64 was the game mag I bought more than any other, there seems to be a pretty good resource of material from the mag here [zzap64.co.uk]
    • The format of Zzap64 and Crash were a popular one for the Newsfield publications.

      There were many things that I enjoyed about Zzap, from the game reviews, interviews with developers and diary of a game specials. Ah the nostalgia :)

      I currently like the Retro Gamer mag that is being produced as it feels similar but has a more historic and informative feel. And has less ads than most of the other game mags out there right now. Plus the Oliver Frey cover art is great.
  • I think my Dad used to get Rainbow or whatever the mag for the Co-co TRS 80 series computers was called. I think he still has them around on a top shelf somewhere. They had code and all sorts of things to try out on the computer.
  • ...which became "Spectrum User" IIRC. Fav part was the programs that came as page up and page down of machine code that you had to painstakingly enter without a single error.
  • NMS (Score:2, Interesting)

    by cheese-cube ( 910830 )
    This article reminded me of a good magazine which I used to get back in the day called NMS (Nintendo Magazine System). It was the official Nintendo magazine of Australia until one day it folded (No pun intended). Oh how I miss you NMS.
    • Re:NMS (Score:3, Informative)

      by Duds ( 100634 )
      After 2 or 3 name changes and 2 or 3 publishers, the UK one of those still exists as "Nintendo Official Magazine"
      • Thats interesting. Does "Nintendo Official Magazine" get distributed outside of the UK?
        • You can subscribe worldwide to the current "Nintendo: The Official Magazine" at Future Publishing's subscriptions site [myfavourit...ines.co.uk]. This NOM is fairly new though, Future only recently gained the licence from EMAP, it was their magazine that was the direct descandent of the (UK) Nintendo Magazine System.

          / Future now publishes the "offical" PlayStation 2, Xbox, Xbox 360 and Nintendo magazines. And half of the "unofficial" competitors.
  • My favorite magazine was Compute Gazette since I had a Commodore 64. I also read Byte in the early 1980's. I was too young as a teenager to understand what I was reading since I wouldn't switch from a Commodere 64 to a PC until 1995 and a Mac this year. You know you're old when a book you read 22 years ago ("Hackers" by Stephen Levy) is now a Penguin paperback with the distinctive orange spine.
    • I subscribed to both Compute!'s Gazette and RUN back in the glory days of the 64. I still have them around somewhere, including the first issue of RUN. I don't know how many nights I spent typing in programs from the back of those magazines. It was nightmarish at first, but got better once they started using checksum programs (remember MLX?).

      About a year ago I found out that my boss at the time had also subscribed to RUN as a kid, and had even had a program published. I probably have it on a 5.25" disk some
  • by Hambone.dk ( 639911 ) on Thursday May 11, 2006 @03:05AM (#15306572) Homepage
    The two top mags were Crash and Your Sinclair, both [crashonline.org.uk] of which [ysrnry.co.uk] are pretty much completely available online.
  • 'Terms like easter egg, scrolling, and screenshot were originally coined by [Electronic Games editor and co-founder Bill] Kunkel.'


    So what did the developers that created those games call it before EG existed?
    • It's quite possible that until then there had been no specific term for it. It would have been easy to get by using other names like 'platformer'.
      • I'd be surprised to learn that was true. I'm pretty sure "platformer" as a term of art didn't come about until there were a substantial number of games on which to base the term. The earliest I can remember is Pitfall, though there were probably even older ones, but I never heard the term "platformer" describing a class of games until into the 1990s.

        Likewise for "scrolling", it is likely game developers just talked about "following", or "moving" or other ways of describing the background movement. I don't h
        • > Likewise for "scrolling", it is likely game developers just talked about "following", or "moving" or other ways of describing the background movement. I don't have any evidence to back this up, just a vague sense of being aware of the games long before I ever heard those terms used to describe them.

          Well, the Atari 400/800 computers, designed 1978-79 and released in 1979, had references to the term "scrolling" in its system equates (a couple of registers called HSCROL and VSCROL). The names HSCROL and

  • The Best Games Mag? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by b06r011 ( 763282 )
    In My opinion it was "the ONE Amiga", an amiga games mag from the early / mid 90's in the UK. They had pretty good demo discs (ahhh... those were the days...) but the best part was by far the comedy reviews... they never seemed to mince their words, as anybody who read the review of the CliffHanger game would know. In case you missed it, they scored it at 6%.

    Anyone else out there read it? Perhaps it just appealed to my childish sense of humour...

  • by Duds ( 100634 ) <dudley.enterspace@org> on Thursday May 11, 2006 @03:15AM (#15306595) Homepage Journal
    CVG nearly exists. The paper magazine died finally in October 2004 after turning into a kiddie biased pile of toilet paper. The online version still exists at http://www.computerandvideogames.com./ [www.comput...ogames.com] I'm involved in a project to archive the entire run so we'll get back to you on that.

    The article does it a dissevice. While it was close on its purchase by Future that was because Dennis (who themselves bought it from EMAP) wanted shot of it. It's circulation was half of Gamesmasters' and to call Gamesmaster kiddie compared to the CVG of the last couple of years is like calling Windows svelte compared to DOS 1.

    As for "Coasted all the way to 2004", that ignores the Jaz Rignall and Paul Davies eras of the early 1990s and 1996ish which produced some of the last great games journalism before magazines were beaten to a bloody press-release filled pulp by the internet. They also had Retro coverage before any other mainstream magazine, which got countless of us into it and no doubt accounts for the success of the superb Retro Gamer [retrogamer.net] magazine published by Imagine these days.
    • IIRC almost everyone at my school (during the late 80's) referred to CVG as 'Computer and Vegetable Games' - dunno why. I don't even know if that was a merely a localised slang term, or whether somewhere else in gaming journalism it had been called that and people just picked up on it.

      I never really read CVG, being totally addicted to Zzap64! at the time.

      -Jar.
  • Joystick magazine (Score:3, Informative)

    by mgabrys_sf ( 951552 ) on Thursday May 11, 2006 @03:28AM (#15306620) Journal
    Joystick had some of the best design out there. From cover to spread the game oozed art direction by those who "got it" in the business.
    • Wasn't it "Joystik" with no "c" ? I remember them being very pedantic about that, for some retarded reason. Geeks never change, I suppose.

      I threw out all my ancient video game magazines long ago, but kepr the couple of "Joystik" issues I had, one specifically for the 2 page "Bladerunner" picture of the Spinner flying in front of the TV billboard.

      The best, or worst, depending on how you look at it, part of those early 80s magazines was the fact that most of them had NO real screenshots of the games, just Art
      • Fantastic magazine, and beautiful to look at. I still have the issue that covers TRON and Donkey Kong Jr. strategies, as well as Pitfall for the Atari 2600.

        The whole magazine was pure 80's gold, from layout to content.

        My favorite quote from that issue- "Admitting you don't own this classic is like admitting that your house doesn't have indoor plumbing." What were they talking about? Asteroids for the 2600, of course! :-)

        Good times.
  • Electronic Games magazine was the the one that the others looked up to. It was right there when it happened, and it had great articles covering the newest arcade and home games.

    I used to ride my bike to the mall and anxiously await each new issue on the day it arrived. I can remember drooling over reviews of the Vectrex, a system that my parents never did buy for me, despite my begging. Perhaps if they had, the cool kids would have come over, and id'a been popular. Ok maybe not.
  • Criminal ommissions (Score:4, Informative)

    by Tet ( 2721 ) <slashdotNO@SPAMastradyne.co.uk> on Thursday May 11, 2006 @03:55AM (#15306666) Homepage Journal
    It's not much of an article! OK, so it covers the very beginning, and is only a short column, but there's an awful lot it misses out. Sure, it mentions C&VG, and indeed, the whole industry read it at the time, here in the UK. But Sinclair User [f9.co.uk] came along shortly afterwards and garnered a sizeable following. There's also no mention of the Newsfield publications. Crash [crashonline.org.uk] and Zzap!64 [zzap64.co.uk] really were the defining magazines of the 1980s computer gaming scene.
  • by payndz ( 589033 ) on Thursday May 11, 2006 @03:55AM (#15306667)
    I'd say that in the UK, Newsfield's mags (Crash for the Spectrum, Zzap!64 for the C64... oh, and Amtix for the Amstrad CPC as well, I guess) defined games magazines far more than C&VG. They were the first mags to make game reviews the core of the title - C&VG and the other mags of the time 'reviewed' games in a couple of paragraphs (often not even with screenshots) while concentrating on type-in program listings. Crash et al did double-page, full-colour reviews for the biggest games.

    Nearly all of the modern UK games mags follow the 'format' Newsfield devised. It's a format that works, because magazines that try to do something radically different tend not to last very long. Newsfield was also the direct ancestor of the major UK games magazine publishers - Future was founded by an ex-Newsfield guy, Paragon was founded by ex-Future staffers, and now Imagine was set up by ex-Paragon types. (In fact, one of Imagine's bosses worked at Newsfield, so the games rag Kevin Bacon game is very easy...)

    • b-but C&VG was a cross-format (including arcade) mag which was there before the individual platforms were strong enough to support their own magazines - the article is 'looks at the dawn of' rather than 'more influential'. all the mags you mention are more breakfasttime than dawn 8)
  • The British magazines were the best, C+VG ruled until the late 80's when it had a demographic shift. Keith Campbell is the king.
  • ..and it's all thanks to CVG!!

    (if you get this, you probably read the tongue-in-cheek comics about CVG in CVG as well;))
  • by master_p ( 608214 ) on Thursday May 11, 2006 @05:48AM (#15306866)
    EDGE is an excellent British magazine which covers all sorts of video game machines with excellent reviews, intelligent layout and content. It proves that there is stuff that you can not have online; for example: analysis of gameplay, interviews with developers, exclusive reports for technological breakthroughs in electronics, back-bedroom programming reports, and many many others.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      EDGE is the only games magazine I'm ever even tempted to buy, but there's no reason it couldn't work online. And as far as I'm concerned their appeal lies more in their particular brand of hype than anything else - for solid gaming news and reviews I read the regular websites, EDGE is more for fun what-ifs.
    • I don't see any reason why they couldn't do it online. Actually, as someone in the States, I would kill for an online version even if it was a drmed pdf or something similar. The current subscription prices are astronomical. Barnes and Nobles has started carrying it and buying it off the rack at $9 a month is more palatable than the current price of $116.55 for a subscription and basically the same price.
    • The problem with EDGE is their basic review criteria:

      - Anything not yet released is the greatest game ever.

      - Anything actually shipped sucks.

      The magazine is basically all the hype from Microsoft and Sony, without the actual game reviews.
  • Now go and expand http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Video_game_magazine [wikipedia.org] , that article is way too brief.

    -Filik.

  • Unfortunately I can't tell how much earlier, but it was probably bimonthly or quarterly, issue 19 being dated "Spring/Winter 1982". It might not count as a computer games magazine, as it was subscription only, but the VCS did have a Basic cartridge (of sorts) so I'd argue it's a games computer.

    Some scans here [atariage.com]. This publication has special memories for me because I was in it [atariage.com]
  • In Germany we had one magazine topping all other domestic magazines, namely PowerPlay. Not only had they reviews of C64, Atari ST, Amiga (and later PC) games, but also reviews of all kinds of console games. They also reported about and reviewed lots of games from Japan, e.g. for the Super Famicom when it first appeared there and had lots of interesting specials and looks behinds the scenes.

    Another great feature was their contact to the developer teams like Factor 5, Team 17, Kaiko who explained their deve
  • Amstrad Action (Score:3, Interesting)

    by datafr0g ( 831498 ) * <datafrog@NoSPaM.gmail.com> on Thursday May 11, 2006 @07:17AM (#15307009) Homepage
    Amstrad Action was brilliant. The writing was so damn funny (especially in the later issues).

    It was also the first magazine in the world to mount cover cassettes with demos, games, utils, etc. It was also one of the longest running 8 bit computer mags running from 85 til 95 even outlasting Zzap64 I believe.

    I didn't realise until now but it was a major influence on me back then and I probably wouldn't be typing this now on slashdot without that influence - some of the segments from the mag had a real cool hacker side and you could learn how to do some pretty cool stuff with computers back then from these mags which at the time were pretty mainstream.

    PC Format was great too, in the early to mid 90's anyway - very similar to AA back then but has since lost it's touch - far too glammy and glitzy these days.
    • Hear hear, Amstrad Action! The type-ins were awesome! Even the pure machine-code ones with 10 lines of BASIC for a loader/checksum and then line after line of 'DATA "0A10C9000032FF20C029"'.

      There was a section where they published '10-liners' - programs in 10 lines of basic. I was often very impressed with what people could squeeze in, and I learnt a LOT.

      I learnt my first bit of assembly language from Amstrad Action - Z80 assembler of course.

      Those were the days.

      You wouldn't get a MASM tutorial in today's PC
    • AA ended with issue 117 in June 1995. At the time they didn't know it would be the last issue which is why it's a little embarassing that their last banner headling read "Publish and be damned!"
  • by spyrochaete ( 707033 ) on Thursday May 11, 2006 @09:15AM (#15307459) Homepage Journal
    Games magazines sure have come a long way. I still have some old ones from the early 90s and they are written in such varying voices. Some magazines read like trade publications, others were for retail store owners, some were from pen-and-paper and play-by-mail fans... but as a 10 year-old I was only interested in the games and the technology. My potential IQ probably dropped 30 points when I started subscribing to Nintendo Power since the writing style was so juvenile in comparison, but that magazine treated me well too - I, like 30% of subscribers (so boasts one ad in the magazine), still have every single issue in my garage.

    When CDROM was on the horizon and everyone was drooling over juicy screenies of The 7th Guest and Myst, one magazine (PC Games and Computer Entertainment maybe?) actually split into two - one dedicated to CDROM titles - and were sold together in a plastic bag. Others started packing floppies, and later on, (gasp!) CDs. I requested some free sample CDs from advertisers which had demos of hundreds upon hundreds of games per disc which really whet my appetite for multimedia.

    I'm glad the internet didn't become popular until well after the video game - and video game magazine - boom. The web is slowly killing the print medium, and I'm quite sure I won't have years worth of web archives in 10 years. I cherish and reread my old games magazines all the time and I wouldn't trade them for all the buckazoids on Xenon.
  • by blahplusplus ( 757119 ) on Thursday May 11, 2006 @10:40AM (#15308214)
    The early nintendo power magazines were good during the NES era, gamepro and EGM took over during the SNES/Genesis/Arcade/Playstation, but I stopped buying mags just before the playstation was released, they all lost most of their value as the internet became the hub for video game info.
  • My favorite mag was and probably still is Video Games & Computer Entertainment. I remember Bill Kunkel the "Game Doctor"...Andy Katz was editor I think...Zach somebody. The cover artwork was always hand-drawn, making it look more adult than the other magazines. Most of the reviews were a full page of text just about corner to corner, with maybe two small screenshots on the page, and the reviews were really in depth (which was boring if you weren't interested in the game, but great if you were). They
  • In the early to mid 90's DieHard GameFan was something special, to me at least. The covers were all frameable and the magazine was full color glossy front to back. As nice as it looked the main reason I bought it every month was for the reviews. Every reviewer had there own personal preference in game styles but always seemed to give honest reviews. For instance if E.Storm gave a 2D platformer 99% I knew I wasn't wasting my money. This was the during the Golden Age of the SNES and Genesis till the early P

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